“I wipe out rebellious tribes with streams of blood and streams of money. Only following this cleansing can something new emerge,” Lieutenant-General Lothar von Trotha said upon arriving in Namibia, having mercifully butchered tribes in East Africa where he was stationed.
In light of this declaration, and its painfully successful implementation between 1904 and 1908, it would be fair to say calls by some Namibians to declare a national Genocide Commemorative Day, in honour of Namibians killed by German colonial forces during that period, are not illogical.
In recent weeks these calls gained momentum, with Swanu leader Usutuaije Maamberua particularly raising the issue during President Hage Geingob’s State of the Nation Address on 5th April. The opposition leader also made the call afterwards during a recent parliamentary debate.
There are people in the ruling party Swapo and indeed those outside formal confines of political establishments who share the same view.
Often than not, comparisons are drawn between the infamous Cassinga massacre of 1978 and the four-year genocide wave that scholars of this tragedy say killed about 90 000 citizens.
The Cassinga attack saw nearly 1 000 innocent Namibians being killed within hours of sustained attacks by forces of apartheid South Africa.
Of course our history as a nation is littered with other incidents of a brutal nature for which no national days have been declared but in order to recognise the contribution by each generation to this country’s resistance against foreign occupation, we need to find a common denominator to the satisfaction of everyone.
Cassinga and the German genocide of Namibians have a lot in common, in that innocent citizens whose only demand was sovereignty and self-determination were mercilessly butchered like hunted animals.
It would therefore be wise and accommodative if we all consider calls for the Genocide Commemorative Day – to commemorate and honour the souls of those who perished in the biggest killing spree in Namibian history.
But because Namibia is already battling piles of unproductive public holidays, we could also consider merging Cassinga with the genocide, so that both these sad episodes are observed on the same day.
This way we would promote unity in the country by recognising the efforts and suffering of all Namibians, instead of creating impressions that the suffering of certain generations are less important and therefore do not deserve special attention.
Perhaps creating another public holiday would be counter-productive and costly. Counter-productive in the sense that many businesses close on public holidays and costly because it would mean reserving resources to commemorative events across the country.
At this point in time, it is extremely difficult to comprehend the status quo where the country’s biggest killings in history seem to play second fiddle to events of similar nature, some of which are even of – numerically speaking – less magnitude.
Namibia is currently gasping for unity oxygen and there are things we can start doing in order to enhance national cohesion.
Recognition of each other’s efforts and respect for the contribution by each one of us to the freedom and independence of our country is a key catalyst in resolving some of the current impasses undermining our unity and threatening our co-existence.